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Monday, 15 January, 2001, 10:02 GMT
Dream partnership turned sour
Ronaldo
Rumours Nike forced Ronaldo to play World Cup final
BBC Sport Online's Tim Vickery looks at the often difficult relationship between multinational Nike and the Brazilian national side.

When Brazil first played in the Maracana under the sponsorship of Nike, the sportswear giant plastered the area around the stadium with posters claiming that they were "with Brazil come what may".

What seemed a glib slogan back in April 1998 has since been put to the test.

A Commission of Inquiry in Brazil's Congress is investigating the company's influence on the national team, the most potent symbol of the Brazilian nation.

In return for their $17m annual investment, Nike have surely come close to breaking world records for collecting bad publicity.

There are two main reasons for the deal turning so sour.

Flawed side

The first is that Nike became a victim of their own success. Their promotional campaign, spearheaded by the omnipresent airport lounge advert, sold an impression of Brazil as an unbeatable dream team.

No such side existed. Ronaldo's convulsion provided a convenient tabloid excuse for losing to France in the World Cup final, but the truth was that Brazil were there for the taking.

All through the tournament they had struggled against the high pressure marking of the Europeans, a tactic at which the French were masters.

Brazil limped into the final a tired, creaking team who needed little excuse to collapse.

For all its brilliance, Nike's campaign broke one of the basic rules of advertising - don't make promises your product can't keep.

The consumer feels cheated, and in this case the backlash was aimed straight at the company.

Extraordinary control

Rumours that Nike had forced a reluctant Ronaldo onto the field for the final sprung from the company's second mistake - going into business with people they didn't trust.

Outside of World Cups, Brazil have frequently fielded sides that have been well below full strength.

In return for their money, Nike wanted Brazil in both quantity and quality.

Not trusting the Brazilian FA to provide it, they inserted clauses in the contract to enforce their will.

The contract gave them an extraordinary level of control.

For five friendlies a year (since reduced to two), Nike would choose Brazil's opposition, and insist on the participation of eight acknowledged first team players.

Rumour factory

Their clear worry was that the Brazilian FA, left to themselves, would not be so businesslike.

Their lack of faith in Brazilian efficiency extended to the legal system.

In the event of a contractual dispute, the Brazilian FA can only take the case to Zurich, while Nike can go anywhere in the world.

These clauses were initially kept secret - an error which allowed a huge rumour factory to develop about a company whose overriding wish was for Brazil to play well, enchant the world and sell lots of shirts.

Buying one of those shirts in Brazil costs over half the monthly income of a worker earning the minumum wage.

Along Copacabana beach it is easy to come across cut-price fake versions - each a testimony to the difficult relationship between an aggressive multinational and the third world kings of the global game.

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11 Jan 01 |  Football
Silent witness Ronaldo
09 Jan 01 |  Football
Players in their pockets
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